Ryan O'Reilly's club-elected salary arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 23, which is still two weeks away. That means there's plenty of time for the Avalanche and their gentlemanly center to reach an agreement, and thus avoid the nastiness of a hearing.
It seems unlikely that this is going to happen, however. According to the Denver Post, per a source, O'Reilly and the Avalanche are already done negotiating. He's headed to arbitration.
What it means is this: O'Reilly will have the terms of his next contract dictated by an arbitrator, who will present the 23-year-old forward with the choice of either a one-year or two-year binding contract, and O'Reilly will have to decide one or the other.
An arbitrator cannot award O'Reilly anything less than 85 percent of his base salary of $6.5 million last season. That guarantees O'Reilly at least a $5.525 million salary with the Avs for 2014-15.
There's a short-term win for the Avalanche here. By taking O'Reilly to arbitration, they avoided qualifying him at $6.5 million, and will likely come away from the hearing with an award that falls below that number.
But it really would be a hollow victory. While it'll save them a little money now, it's almost sure to cost them O'Reilly in two years.
Arbitration can be nasty, and often irreparably damaging to the relationship between players and clubs. Heck, even getting to arbitration tends to speak to a frayed relationship. Consider: O'Reilly is one of three NHLers scheduled to go through club-elected salary arbitration, and one of the other two, Vladimir Sobotka, bolted for the KHL on Thursday.
So if the relationship between O'Reilly and the Avalanche was bad now -- and it certainly appears to be, since they're seemingly always fighting -- it's not going to be much better after this process.
This is especially problematic because O'Reilly will be presented with the option of a one or two-year contract, and if he takes the two-year deal, he'll become an unrestricted free agent when it expires.
No way the Avalanche get him under contract again if that happens. When this is over, it'll be two straight deals for O'Reilly that some other party negotiated -- first the Flames, now an arbiter. Safe to assume he'll make it three as soon as he can.